2003: Newsmakers - Junior PGA winner likely to lose title
As Golfweek went to press Feb. 24, the PGA of America was investigating allegations that reigning Westfield Junior PGA champion Sung Ea Lee was overage during her victory last July.
Lee, of Tacoma, Wash., is a scholarship freshman on the University of Washington golf team. The school’s media guide and the American Junior Golf Association list Lee’s birth date as June 10, 1984, which would have made her 18 – over the age limit of 17 – when the tournament began July 17 at The Westfield Group Country Club in Westfield Center, Ohio.
Jim Daves, Washington’s sports information director, said Feb. 24 that Lee, who was born in Guam, was expected to contact the PGA of America Feb. 27 upon her return to school and tell them that she was ineligible for the Westfield event. The Huskies were competing Feb. 24-26 at the Arizona Invitational in Tucson; Lee was unavailable for comment.
“You’ve got to be accountable,” Daves said. “This is a sport and a game that requires accountability.”
Lee likely will be stripped of her Westfield Junior title, said Julius Mason, director of media and public relations for the PGA of America, which conducts the national championship.
The title would then be awarded to runner-up In-Bee Park, 14, who was the Westfield champion in 2001.
“We’re certainly going to do everything we can to try and find out what’s going on,” Mason said before Golfweek learned that Lee planned to call the PGA.
The PGA’s investigation was prompted by an anonymous letter from “Concerned & Disappointed Golf Parents” that alerted the organization to the age discrepancy. The letter included a copy of Lee’s biography in the Huskies’ golf media guide.
“Many of us were uneasy about her age eligibility to play the event, but until the recent posting of her freshman bio, wanted to give her the benefit of doubt,” read the letter, a copy of which was sent to Golfweek.
School officials confirmed Lee’s birth date as June 10, 1984. Records kept by the AJGA also list that date as her birthday. However, on her Westfield Junior entry form, Lee signed for a birth date of June 9, 1985. That application was processed by the Pacific Northwest PGA Section.
During inquiries about Lee’s situation, Golfweek learned that June 9, 1985 is the birth date of Lee’s sister, as registered with the Washington Junior Golf Association. The younger sister, Sung Ji Lee, also plays junior golf, but did not compete in the Westfield event.
The PGA of America does not require birth certificates from contestants, relying instead on accurate application disclosures. This also is common practice among most state and regional golf associations, as well as the AJGA.
Park sandwiched her runner-up finish at the 2002 Westfield between victories at the AJGA Rolex Girls’ Junior Championship and the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship.
“It’s kind of sad that it happened because In-Bee went there to defend a title and she played very good,” said Park’s coach, Charlie Yoo. “They’re (the PGA) going to have to make a decision soon whether they leave it the same or name her the champion.”